Aleph Zero Blog

An Overwhelming Majority: We Shouldn't Convict Based Solely on a Rape Victim's Statement

Mon Oct 27 14:06:50 UTC 2014

I was very surprised to see the results to this question.

We asked our users:

If a woman says that a stranger has raped her, but there is no other evidence other than her statement, should he be convicted?

The possible answers were:

  • Yes, otherwise many rapers will walk free and will not be deterred, because frequently the victim's statement is all there is.
  • No, otherwise innocent people will be wrongly convicted without proof that goes beyond a reasonable doubt.

An overwhelming majority of users (90%+) voted for the second option. I had no idea that so many people would let someone who is charged of rape walk free if there is no other evidence other than the victim's statement. It sounds very problematic to me.

First, in many cases there isn't any other evidence. Naturally, rape is something that happens in closed rooms, so it's extremely rare to find witnesses or people who can confirm simple facts that are stated in court (for example, like what the accused was wearing that night). Furthermore, many victims don't go to the police immediately for various reasons, so there isn't any DNA evidence as well.

I understand the principle that we can't convict a man when there is a reasonable doubt that he did not commit the crime. And I do agree that a single statement from the victim cannot eliminate all doubt.

But, if we prove that the victim really did not know the stranger she is accusing of rape, and she did not have any motive to lie, and that she did have a good look of the rapist, can we really think of a reasonable doubt that this is not the guy? My feeling is that in some cases it certainly should be enough.